Wednesday 22 November 2017

A united France looks more than ever like a divided one

Armed French soldiers stand in front of a Synagogue during a visit of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve after an attack in front of a Jewish school in Marseille's 9th district. Photo: Reuters
Armed French soldiers stand in front of a Synagogue during a visit of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve after an attack in front of a Jewish school in Marseille's 9th district. Photo: Reuters

Mary Fitzgerald

The glossy campaign adorns billboards and metro stations across Marseille, France's second largest city and one of its most diverse. My baguette from a local boulangerie even came wrapped in paper displaying the campaign logo this week.

'For 2016, let us be united', it reads grandly above a map of France composed of scores of images of individual people, supposedly French citizens.

A closer look reveals that this purported representation of France united is a rather homogenous one. There are few faces that are not white, for example, and none that explicitly show a French Muslim - say a woman wearing the hijab or headscarf - despite France being home to Europe's largest Muslim population, many of whom live in this port city shaped by generations of immigration. The message is hardly one that conveys a France confidently united in difference.

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